Musician in U.S. Civil War?

I recently learned my gg grandfather served in the Civil War. He died at the National Military Home in Dayton, OH in 1913. He is buried at the Dayton National Cemetery.

I went to visit his grave site recently. Here is a pic of the headstone. At the top it says MUSN. I believe this means he was a musician in the war.

Pardon my ignorance, but what did a musician do in the Civil War??

Besides the obvious of providing entertainment for soldiers, musicians during the war included positions like drummers and buglers, who were used to provide instructions and marching beats.

Don’t know whether MUSN refers to him being a musician or not. But there were plenty of musicians involved in the war. Mostly of two types:

“Company musicians” included drummers, fifers, and buglers, who relayed commands through music on the battlefield, provided accompaniments to executions for desertion, played uplifting tunes to cheer the troops, and so on (most obviously reveille and the like).

Also, many regiments had bands attached to them. Some of this was PR–“Join our regiment, we’ve got the best band!” like colleges today with basketball teams. Bands played on various occasions, including giving concerts when battlefield action was slow, and members were often utilized as stretcher bearers and the like during fighting.

One picture of a Wisconsin band on Lookout Mtn:

Another (colored by hand) of a NC band, all brass instruments:

The full word “Musician” is written in the roster.
F company’s musician. . Also summarises what the the 156th Ohio Volunteers did in their 100 days… Not much.

Musicians blow the trumpet or bugle, as an alarm clock, to play their anthems, and marching tunes, and in battle, to make the “go” signal, and if they are fit for war, drop the horn and pick up the rifle and go on being regular GI. They may signal other things like “fire for effect” , cease fire, or retreat.

You know that charge fanfare that they play during ball games:
They actually played that as a signal to the cavalry to charge.

As others have already said, music played a vital role on the battlefield to relay commands and coordinate troop movements. It was a vital means of communication in an era without radio.

In fact there was a problem with not having a musician, the troops might start singing southern songs, like Dixie… So the musician was required to ensure the troops learnt tunes, or at least lryics , suitable to the their own side…

Yes lyrics were changed to suit their cause… Eg The union troops ironically used Yankee Doodle, but with modified words to say that the confederates were thinking they were fighting yankee doodle… (themselves.)

During the American Secession War, the bands played light music ( compositions ) during the actual fighting, not merely for communication. At Malvern Hill — an affair I am unlikely ever to forgive Lee for — they played The Marseilles as introit , I do not know if that is the same as the splendid, but tainted Marseillaise. It may have been one of those popular regimental marches, such as Sambre et Meuse.
I can’t now check if it applied in the American Theatre of War, but British and European musicians were required to act as stretchermen and hospital assistants to the surgeons these last 400 years.

During my time in the 7th Cav Reg, as a squad leader there were many times when I told my guys “Boots and saddles, ladies” to get them to fall in for pre-combat inspection. And whenever I got a new guy, I’d ask if he played trumpet or cornet. Dammit, I WANTED a bugler. Did you ever try to shout instructions over the sound of a very nearby UH-1D?

Wiki list and notates US Army (only?) calls. I can’t remember if these things are called “tattoos”–which always struck me as weird.

The calls are all indexed to separate Wiki entries; just the other day I read one–but now can’t remember–that mentioned its Civil War history.

Wow, thanks!

I see that he was the only musician in Company G. Interesting.

“Tattoo” was a specific bugle call, meaning, fifteen minutes to lights out. I remember it from summer camp; it was one of the longer calls, giving people plenty of warning.

“Tattoo” in this sense comes from the Dutch phrase “doe den tap toe”, meaning “turn off the tap.” It was the signal to pubs to stop serving the beer to the soldiers, and by extension became the signal to the troops to return to camp.

Cool and cooler. Thanks to both.

Fascinating. Given the conscription riots, and the horrible casualty rates, I’d occasionally wondered that anyone volunteered.